Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
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Posts Tagged: environment

Earth Day history can inspire us all

My father was ahead of his time.

Years before Americans were asked to, Jim Hayden ensured that our family conserved energy by keeping the thermostat low, turning off lights and taking "military" showers to reduce water use. My father also observed the speed limit. Our family vacations took us to national parks. I grew up with a keen appreciation for the outdoors. I remember the sense of horror and helplessness when I saw the images of distressed wildlife in the aftermath of the Santa Barbara oil spill, which devastated the beaches that were an important part of our family's life.

In part as a result of that oil spill, Earth Day came into being. And 49 years after that inaugural Earth Day event, many of us will find ourselves at a gathering dedicated to increasing awareness of the environment that supports and sustains us all.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon visited the site of an oil slick in Santa Barbara. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

History of Earth Day

Earth Day was launched in 1970. Many factors contributed to the call for a national day focusing on environmental stewardship, including the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring - serialized in the New Yorker - and the catastrophic oil spill that occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. The Santa Barbara oil spill galvanized U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) to call for a national day of locally inspired and organized "teach-ins" on the environment - a national "Earth Day." The Earth Day model was inspired by the spirit of campus activism at the nation's colleges and universities. It wasn't top-down, but rather a grassroots effort that encouraged communities to develop educational and service events around issues and topics important to them. 

Earth Day struck a chord; some estimates suggest that 1 in 10 Americans participated in the first events. Earth Day is widely credited with "sparking" the modern environmental movement. Landmark environmental legislation swiftly followed (including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act). The Environmental Protection agency was founded that same year. Twenty years after its launch, Earth Day became a global movement.

You can learn more from the Earth Day Network by linking to this website.

Take part. Learn. Act.

UC ANR research efforts support a healthy and sustainable environment

UC ANR is dedicated to supporting a healthy and sustainable environment. It's part of our core mission. Highlighted below are just a few of the many projects we're working on to protect California's natural resources, build climate-resilient communities and ecosystems, and promote healthy people and communities.

Seeking Street Trees that Can Cope With Climate Change

Trees play a vital role in shading and beautifying California's urban areas. UC ANR researcher Janet Hartin says that:

“Urban areas create heat islands, with dark asphalt surfaces reradiating heat. Cities can be 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding environment."

Trees provide other benefits, including improving soil health and stability, providing habitat for wildlife and serving as a source of beauty. But climate change (resulting in reduced rainfall and higher temperatures) can create chronic stress in some street tree species.

To find a solution, UC Cooperative Extension scientists are partnering with the U.S. Forest Service "in an unprecedented 20-year research study to expand the palette of drought-adapted, climate-ready trees for several of the state's climate zones."

“The idea is to look at available but under-planted, drought-tolerant, structurally sound, pest resistant trees for Southern California that do well in even warmer climates,” said Janet Hartin, UCCE horticulture advisor in San Bernardino County.

Learn more - including what tree species might be planted in your area - in this terrific read by Jeannette Warnert.

CDFA and UC ANR join forces to advance Climate-Smart Ag

A new partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and UCANR aims to advance climate-smart ag in California. More than $1 million has been used to hire 10 UC Cooperative Extension community education specialists, who are being deployed to 10 counties to help farmers participate in CDFA programs that increase the adopting of "smart" farming and ranching practices.

The primary focus is putting into action on-farm solutions to improve (and increase) smart farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Practices that improve soil health, nutrient management, irrigation management, and more will be emphasized.

Learn more about this innovative program here.

Be kind to the Earth by reducing food waste

Nearly 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted and much of that waste ends up in landfills (definitely not good for our environment or the economy). The National Resources Defense Council estimates that the average family of four throws out nearly 1,000 pounds of food each year, wasting roughly $1,500. Consumers as a group waste more food than farms, grocery stores or restaurants. For tips on ways you can reduce #FoodWaste, click hereRelated Reading: What a World War I Poster Can Teach Us About #FoodWaste.

4-H Sustainable You! summer camp to be offered in Ventura County

The UCCE Ventura County team will once again be hosting its week-long 4-H Sustainable You! summer day camp at UC's Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC) in Santa Paula. Campers aged 9-12 are invited to spend time on a working farm, learning what it means to be sustainable through fun activities based around the five major themes: Air, Land, Energy, Water, and Food. Registration information can be found here

For more than 100 years the UC ANR 4-H Youth Development Program has taught generations of California children about food, agriculture, leadership, and community service using learn-by-doing practices. The California 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM) Initiative seeks to increase science literacy and help address the growing need for scientists, engineers, and technical experts. 4-H empowers youth with the skills to lead for a lifetime.

Interested in learning more about 4-H in your community? Visit our statewide 4-H program page.

December 1968 Earth rise.

The above photo is one of my favorites. It was taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders on Dec. 24, 1968, while in orbit around the moon. It shows the Earth rising for the third time above the lunar horizon. It always serves to remind me that my individual actions do matter, and when considered with the actions of others, contribute to real change ... the "moon shot." Have a great Earth Day!

Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2019 at 6:15 PM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Teaching teachers about the environment outdoors

Mike De Lasaux demonstrates how foresters determine the age of a tree by taking a core sample and counting the rings.
One approach to improving science literacy of children is to train their teachers in environmental education. Using the forest as a classroom, Project Learning Tree, now a program delivered through UC Cooperative Extension, educates teachers about the environment and provides ideas and the tools needed for integrating environmental education into their core curriculum. 

The primary goal of PLT is to teach people how to think, not what to think, about complex environmental issues. This has been the vision of PLT since the mid-1970s, inspiring educators to teach and students to learn about their environment, by doing.

At the outdoor workshops, foresters demonstrate forest practices and talk about forest science. For example, Mike De Lasaux, UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor in Plumas and Sierras counties, leads participants out to take tree measurements and shows them how foresters determine the age of a tree by taking a core sample and counting the rings.

“The program is designed for teachers and other educators, parents and community leaders who work with youth from preschool age up through grade 12,” said Sandy Derby, UC Cooperative Extension statewide coordinator.

Tom Catchpole leads participants through a Talk About Trees activity to gain a better understanding of forestry science and to practice applying the knowledge to activities they can do with their students.
Studies have shown that when environmental education and outdoor learning activities are integrated into curricula, student achievement increases, including their test scores in science and math.

Recognized as a leader in environmental education for more than 35 years, the program started by the American Forest Foundation enhances critical thinking, problem-solving and effective decision-making skills, Derby said.

How does it all work? Project Learning Tree collaborates with a network of more than 200 facilitators, natural resources professionals and researchers across the state to provide three types of trainings: educator workshops, training with the Forest Institute for Teachers and train-the-trainer workshops.

Project Learning Tree's educator workshops are six to eight hours on one or more days and offered at UC ANR Research and Extension Centers located around the state. They focus on introducing the goals and vision of teaching and learning using PLT best practices. Each educator receives a PLT guide for use in the classroom.

Teachers learn how to take tree measurements from Mike De Lasaux and Tom Catchpole at a Forest Institute for Teachers workshop.
Every summer, PLT participates in the Forest Institute for Teachers, a six-day intensive training offered at four locations. The participants spend the mornings with forestry experts or researchers on field excursions to learn about science, current research and issues, and management challenges from different perspectives. Their afternoons are spent applying that knowledge, working in grade-level teams to engage in best practices of integrating content into experience-based teaching.

After taking the PLT educator workshops, graduates can take a two-day training to learn how to train others. Train-the-trainer workshops are offered a few times each year in different locations. 

Project Learning Tree in California was delivered by CALFIRE for 25 years before becoming part of UC Cooperative Extension. In 2013, under UCCE advisor De Lasaux's guidance, Project Learning Tree was brought into UC Cooperative Extension to create more collaborative partnerships, engage more natural resources professionals and to expand the number of educators trained to use PLT materials.

For more information about Project Learning Tree, updates on workshops, or questions on how to become part of this expansive network, contact Sandy Derby at stderby@ucanr.edu or visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/PLT_UCCE. To learn more about the Forest Institute for Teachers, visit http://www.forestryinstitute.org.

For 100 years, the University of California Cooperative Extension researchers and educators have been drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. UC Cooperative Extension is part of the University of California's systemwide Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Learn more at ucanr.edu.

 

Posted on Friday, December 12, 2014 at 8:30 AM

International symposium will explore air pollution’s effect on plants

Air pollution is visible from the Berkeley Hills.
Air pollution is harmful to the health of people and animals. That much we know, but how does air pollution affect plants?

Scientists from 25 countries will gather on the Monterey Peninsula to discuss “Plants and the Changing Environment” in June. The 9th Air Pollution and Global Change Symposium will be held June 8-12 at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove.

The goal of the series is to consider interactions of air pollution and global change and their impacts on vegetation.

“The symposium is unique in dealing with effects at all levels from molecular and cellular mechanisms, whole plant and crop impacts, all the way up to models of ecosystem and regional impacts,” said David A. Grantz, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Department of Botany & Plant Sciences at UC Riverside.

The symposia are held every few years in different countries, the last in Groningen, The Netherlands, in 2011. The event in California is being organized by Grantz and Kent O. Burkey, USDA/ARS plant physiologist and North Carolina State University professor of crop science and botany in Raleigh.

UC scientists and students engaged in research on the interactions of plant function, metabolism and communities with environmental pollution and global change are encouraged to attend.

“This is an important opportunity for U.S. scientists because the last time this symposium was held in the U.S. was in 1992,” said Grantz. “This is a great chance to catch up on the physiological ecology and modeling efforts underway in Europe and Asia.”

The confirmed keynote speakers include

  • Dennis Baldocchi, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Lisa Emberson, Stockholm Environment Institute and University of York, U.K.
  • Lisa Ainsworth, USDA/ARS and University of Illinois, USA
  • Koike Takayoshi, Hokkaido University, Japan
  • Harry Harmens, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Environment Centre Wales, U.K.
  • Allen Lefohn, ASL and Associates, USA
  • Atul Jain, University of Illinois, USA
  • Rainer Matyssek, Technische Universitat Munchen, Germany

The deadline for abstracts, registration and lodging is March 31. The agenda, registration and housing information can be found at WWW.APGC.EU.

 

Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Longer human life spans linked to endangered species loss

It's no big surprise that humans are impacting the planet. But a new study pinpoints a sobering connection. 

As human life expectancy increases, so does the percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals, according to a study by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the September issue of Ecology and Society, examined a combination of 15 social and ecological variables — from tourism and per capita gross domestic product to water stress and political stability. Then researchers analyzed their correlations with invasive and endangered birds and mammals, which are two indicators of what conservationist Aldo Leopold termed “land sickness,” the study said.

Human life expectancy, which is rarely included among indexes that examine human impacts on the environment, surfaced as the key predictor of global invasions and extinctions. 

“It’s not a random pattern,” said lead author Aaron Lotz, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology when the study was conducted. “Out of all this data, that one factor — human life expectancy — was the determining factor for endangered and invasive birds and mammals.”

The study analyzed data from 100 countries, which included roughly 87 percent of the world’s population, 43 percent of global GDP per capita, and covered 74 percent of the Earth’s total land area. Additional factors considered were agricultural intensity, rainfall, pesticide regulation, energy efficiency, wilderness protection, latitude, export-import ratio, undernourishment, adult literacy, female participation in government and total population.

The findings include:

  • New Zealand, the United States and the Philippines had among the highest percentages of endangered and invasive birds.
  • New Zealand had the highest percentage of all endangered and invasive species combined, largely due to its lack of native terrestrial mammals. The study said that in the past 700 to 800 years since the country was colonized, it has experienced massive invasion by nonindigenous species, resulting in catastrophic biodiversity loss.
  • African countries had the lowest percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals. These countries have had very little international trade, which limits opportunities for biological invasion. 
  • As GDP per capita — a standard measure of affluence — increased in a country, so did the percentage of invasive birds and mammals.
  • As total biodiversity and total land area increased in a country, so did the percentage of endangered birds. (Biodiversity in this context is not a measure of health but refers to the number of species in an area.)

Lotz said the study’s results indicate the need for a better scientific understanding of the complex interactions among humans and their environment.

“Some studies have this view that there’s wildlife and then there’s us,” said Lotz. “But we’re part of the ecosystem. We need to start relating humans to the environment in our research and not leave them out of the equation. We need to realize we have a direct link to nature.”

The study was featured in the Los Angeles Times, Wired, and the U.K.'s Daily Mail among other media. 

Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 7:59 AM

California's climate-change law: Behind the scenes

Read the bill. That was the first policy lesson that Linda Adams, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, brought to the newly minted Ph.D.’s at the Graduate Research Symposium of UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) earlier this month, where she delivered the keynote address.

The bill Adams was referring to was AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, on which she was the lead negotiator. She told a harrowing tale of the legislative pipeline.

“When Governor Schwarzenegger appointed me in 2006… I was just vaguely aware of AB 32, which was actually very close to his desk,” Adams said. “Being a good former legislative staffer, the first thing I did was read the bill. And much to my horror, what the governor wanted — a market-based approach to reducing emissions — was not only not in the bill but actually prohibited.”

Adams’ discovery resulted in a fight for a comprehensive approach to reducing emissions that California businesses would support, including a cap-and-trade program and complementary measures such as low-emissions vehicles, renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency. The bill that ultimately passed was the nation’s first major climate-change legislation, and was what the California Air Resources Board refers to as the “first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases.”

Her achievements resonated with the audience; environment and climate-change related work is the one common thread among the diverse lines of scientific inquiry pursued at ESPM. Research presented by the graduating Ph.D. students included modeling the impact of climate change on a Bay Area redwood forest, studying changes bird populations in the Sierrra Nevada, analyzing the politics of chemical monitoring, and studying the growth of eco-labels and sustainability ratings—so-called “green” products and services.

Putting the science in government

This broad spectrum of inquiry meshed well with the key theme of Adam’s talk: Science matters.

“Every policy regulation we make here at Cal EPA is based on science,” Adams said. “We rely on our experts when developing policies and… we depend on the accuracy, the timeliness, the relevance, and the needed answers they can supply,” she said.

To the delight of a room filled with fresh job-seeking Ph.D.'s, Adams said that Cal EPA employs hundreds of scientists in various areas of expertise.

What do they do? As an example, Adams cited an agency-wide investigation into a spike in birth defects in the small town of Kettleman City.

“It involved scientists from each department looking into potential links to water, soil, air, and/or pesticide pollution,” she said. “The Department of Pesticide Regulation provided models of pesticide activity in the formative months of pregnancy; the Air Resources Board (ARB) monitored the air in the area; the Water Board tested the tap water and canal for arsenic and other pollutants; and the Department of Toxic Substances Control tested the soil for contamination.

The role of forests

The new world of AB 32 will generate the need for new areas of scientific expertise at Cal EPA. In additional to a full spectrum of chemical and environmental monitoring, there will be growing demand for forestry and reforestation knowledge.

In the legislative negotiations, businesses asked for, and won, the market-based cap-and trade-program. They were not so keen on the “cap” part, according to Adams, but the “trade” part gave them the ability to purchase offsets. This means that not all their reductions have to come at their factory or refinery location; a limited portion can from areas outside their actual area of operation.

That translates to forests. Of the four offset protocols adopted by the ARB, two were forestry protocols: one for urban forestry and one for U.S. forest reforestation and forest management projects.

“We already have over 100 forestation and forest management projects submitted for approval as offsets all over the United States,” Adams said. Cal EPA is also exploring the international market for carbon reduction, through cutting-edge pilot forest redevelopment programs in Chiapas, Mexico, and Acre, Brazil.

Calling to account

As the state begins to implement AB 32 and build a national and international accounting framework, Adams said science will be especially important.

“We need to ensure that all reductions achieved are real, permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, and enforceable, and we rely on the science to provide reduction and emission calculation methods, to identify procedures for project monitoring, reporting parameters, and verification,” she said. “We need the scientific backing to reinforce the policy outcomes we seek, and the research to determine if those sought-after outcomes are possible.… It’s all one continuous cycle.”

In addition to the keynote address, the May 6 Berkeley symposium, dubbed “Gradfest,” also had 15 research presentations, two poster sessions, and a career panel and to help usher ESPM graduates into the various professional arenas of academia, government, nonprofit, and the private sector.

Pictured above, left to right: Alex Harmon-Threatt, Graham Bullock, Mike Wasserman, Secretary Linda S. Adams, Pauline Kamath, Morgan Tingley, and Ben Ramage

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 4:38 PM
  • Author: Ann Brody Guy
 
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